Jon Tester, Democratic U.S. Senator from Montana, rode to national elected office on a pledge to restrict lobbying, end campaign finance violations, and the like. Despite his promises to the contrary, Senator Tester is now in the midst of a scandal, involving allegations of campaign finance violations, illicit lobbying practices, and a firm of trial lawyers trying to evaded Federal campaign laws.
The Workings of a Potential Scandal
Jon Tester, along with other Democrats, were guests for breakfast at the Boston-based firm of trial lawyers called The Thornton Law Firm. After breakfast, Tester exited the firm with $26,400 in donations in hand.
Members of the firm who contributed money to Tester’s campaign, as well as to those of other candidates, then received bonuses from the firm in an amount equal to their campaign contributions. In fact, more than 280 donations made by members of the firm from 2010 to 2014 were followed up by bonus checks from the firm to the same individuals within 10 days. All total, members of the firm donated $1.6 million to Democratic Party committees and candidates during this time period, with $1.4 million paid in so-called “bonuses” in the aftermath of donations during that same time period.
This type of donation followed by a repayment, including in the form of a so-called “bonus,” generally is illegal. The objective is likely to permit the law firm itself to make contributions to candidates that otherwise would be illegal. It is designed to obscure the true source of a contribution.
Jon Tester and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Mr. Tester is the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a Democratic Party organization that received a considerable amount in the way of potentially illicit contributions from The Thornton Firm. Once under scrutiny for possible campaign finance violations, Mr. Tester took what he probably hopes will be corrective action
Once the spotlight was on Tester, amid allegations that range from improper campaign contributions to even outright bribery, Tester authorized the refund of $267,000 back to the law firm in question. The firm itself is under federal investigation. The exact nature of the investigation is not readily available. However, it likely does focus on the aforementioned allegations of election finance improprieties and even the significant contention arising from a contention that some type of bribery is afoot.
A grand jury investigating the scheme was impaneled directly prior to Tester returning the large amount of money his committee received in improper, unlawful contributions. Although it seems clear the law firm is the subject of the federal grand jury inquiry, nothing is certain in regard to how expansive its investigation is at this time. In theory, the grand jury could be investigating not only the law firm, but anyone else thought to be involved in an unlawful scheme regarding campaign donations. This would include Senator Tester, both directly as a candidate that received these contributions and as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
By: Big Sky Headlines Staff